How GoPro is revolutionizing the branding game
We always hear these inspiring stories of billion dollar companies starting with a small idea and a couple of college kids in a dorm room. We all want to become the next Mark Zuckerberg, coming up with a small idea and later building it up to become one of the richest people in the world. But for many of us, this seems completely and utterly unrealistic, and therefore we lose motivation. I mean, what if I invest all my money and time into something and end up being one of the nine of ten startups that don’t make it?
Well, like many young, innovative entrepreneurs, Nick Goodman had the same problem. After two failed startups, and losing thousands in investment, he lost his motivation. In 2002, in an effort to reset his life, Nick went on a surfing trip to Australia. While surfing, and living the exotic life that Australia brings, Nick quickly realized there was no way for him to really capture a cool photo of himself doing his best surfing maneuvers.
At first it was not a business idea, but eventually he became fixated with the idea of creating a camera system that could not only capture up close footage in any adventure or sport with ease, but one that also took away the need for a cameraman. In those days only professional surfers or athletes could get cool in-action shots so he turned his somewhat new idea into his new business venture: GoPro.
Him and his then girlfriend were nearly broke and living out of their VW bus. To make some pocket money they bought bracelets in Bali for $1.90 and sold them for $20 up and down the beaches of California. While traveling, this small amount of money was enough to start up again.
In 2004, he launched his first camera. It quickly became popular with surfers and a growing number of sports fans, and particularly large bases of athletes. Ten years later, the company went public and raised over $427 million at a valuation of nearly three billion dollars. This made Nick the youngest self-made billionaire in the U.S.
Entering the camera market in 2004 was probably not something that a good consultant would have recommended. Competition in the consumer electronics market was and still is extremely competitive with large companies maintaining high market share. The camcorder/camera market was particularly unattractive. The Flip video camera already started to look like a flop, despite superior functionalities and convenience. In addition, consumers started to buy smartphones with ever-improving built-in cameras.
But against all odds, GoPro did it. And the greatest aspect of the GoPro brand was not this heartfelt, innovative and inspiring story, nor the camera itself: the real success was the building of the unique GoPro social brand with technology, creativity and social media.
At the GoPro company in San Mateo California, building the GoPro social brand is known as the virtuous model. It works like this: a surfer buys a GoPro camera, takes a shot, and GoPro does the rest. GoPro edits and uploads the shot to one of the largest social media networks whether it is @GoPro, YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo or Instagram. Within seconds, a video or photo is viewed by a large audience, which inspires them to go out and buy a GoPro camera themselves.
In my opinion, the GoPro branding strategy is transforming how brands are built and advertising as we know it. It is the ultimate user-generated content campaign. User generated content is the practice of consumers or fans putting out their own content which in turn builds the GoPro brand by using content for advertisements. This keeps the marketing costs very low, while making consumers feel involved and connected to the brand. Consumers bring their own creativity and experiences to the brand. For example, GoPro uses a hashtag, #gopro. Through this hashtag, Consumers are encouraged to upload their own videos and photos for a chance to be featured on their YouTube, Twitter, Instagram etc. The consumers are in control and It makes them want to communicate and share with you via social media. The consumers and customers of GoPro advertise for them.
This success is not just happening by coincidence. GoPro has also hired celebrities like Shawn White, a professional snowboarder to promote the camera. This makes a consumer feel that they too, can be like Shawn White if they use their camera.
In addition, they have established partnerships with major brands. For example, it has a contract with Red Bull to record all the Red Bull events. GoPro has also established deep relationships with external agency partners to manage its social presence.
GoPro is a posterchild for the power of social media platforms in today’s branding strategy efforts. GoPro advertises their products with their consumers rather than for their consumers. This aspect of GoPro´s marketing sets them apart from not only other camera brands, but almost any brand ever. GoPro would not be as great if consumers weren’t consistently uploading, sharing and engaging with their products. GoPro builds relationship with their consumers and connects with them through their social media platforms. It doesn’t get much more personal than that.
As for myself, I bought the Hero 4 and ever since, I always have it with me, whether I am skiing in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, hiking or simply traveling to other cities around the world, my #gopro is taking me on adventures and I am encouraged to share it with the GoPro brand and the whole world.